Managing the confusing and complex array of symptoms of menopause can become easier with Chinese herbal medicine, a type of traditional Chinese medicine treatment that is based on the premise that everything moves or changes. The circulation of vital energy (Chi) animates and invigorates the organs and the rest of the body. This circulation depends on maintaining equilibrium between the complementary yet opposing forces of Yin and Yang. The development of disease may imply an imbalance between Yin and Yang and/or that the flow of Chi has been disrupted.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the human body has twelve main meridian channels that are responsible for the health of the body. Because it stores Jing (Kidney energy), the Kidney meridian–organ system is extremely important in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. The Jing is where Yin and Yang originate and they regulate the movement of Qi through all the other organ-meridian systems.
The importance of the Kidney organ-meridian system in women with menopause is due to its governance of the adrenal glands, ovaries, skeletal structure, brain, teeth, kidneys, inner ear, urethra, fluids, hormones, and other substances produced by the kidneys, adrenals and ovaries, as well as the physiological functions of growth fluid, reproduction, and balance during all ages.
Menopause – Its Signs and Symptoms
Menopause usually starts by the age of 45. This is the time when few primordial follicles stay in the ovaries to produce egg (mature ovum). As a result, there is not enough production of progesterone and estrogen to bring about a normal monthly cycle.
When menopause starts, the first sign may be a change in a previously regular menstrual cycle, either in a missed period duration or volume; onset of hot flushing, excessive perspiration and sweaty palms or clamminess; moods changes including depression and anxiety; the exacerbation or occurrence of pre-menstrual symptoms (headaches , breast pain, and fluid retention); changes in the skin (dryness and lessened elasticity particularly of the vagina resulting in dyspareunia or pain during intercourse); cramps and numbness especially at night; changes in body shape, loss of sexual desire, and joint pains.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms
The focus of Traditional Chinese management of menopause is in balancing yin and yang and restoring Jing to regulate the functions of various tissues and organs that the Kidney organ-meridian system governs. According to Western medicine, this approach aims to
? Relieve mood swings, mild anxiety, insomnia, and irritability
? Treat profuse sweating and hot flushes and regulate hormonal function
? Resolve vaginal and skin dryness
? Boost genital sensitivity and sexual vitality
? Enhance bone integrity
The Chinese Herbs Used in Alleviating the Symptoms of Menopause
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) – This herb is infused with isoflavonoids and phytoestrogens which have specific health benefits during menopause. In postmenopausal women, Kudzu prevents or slows down bone loss and relieves hot flushes. Its extract has estrogenic effects on vaginal tissue to address dyspareunia and vaginal dryness and to bring back vaginal membrane or epithelial integrity.
Anemarrhena asphodeloides – This herb contains steroidal saponins that improve hormone function. It can also be used as a tonic for the Kidney Yin that possesses nourishing (tonic), moistening (mucogenic), and cooling (refrigerant) qualities that can help reduce profuse sweating and hot flushes, lubricate vaginal dryness, and reinforce the adrenal glands to replace ovaries as the producer of hormones in the body after the cessation of menstruation.
Morinda officinalis and Epimedium sagittatum – They are used to tonify Kidney Yang. When used together, these two herbs reinforce Yang, provide warmth to the Kidney organ-meridian, and strengthen Yang. Both herbs have hormone regulating activity that assists in restoring sexual vitality, psychological motivation, and physical drive. Both Morinda officinalis and Epimedium sagittatum are urogenital tonics and aphrodisiacs that besides helping dispel sexual disinterest also resolve urinary incontinence and bladder weakness. Being an adaptogen, Morinda gives the body the ability to boost its resistance to stress. Epimedium is deemed biphasic which means that while it tonifies Kidney Yin, it also fortifies Yang preventing it from rising and causing flushing and heat in the upper body.
Angelica polymorpha – In Chinese medicine, this is a very popular herb, and is used for so many female health issues. Because it invigorates and nourishes Hsue (Chinese word for ‘blood’), angelica polymorpha is also considered a ‘female ginseng.’ It also harmonizes Chi which is helpful in the treatment of low vitality, fatigue, recuperation from childbirth, pelvic pain, and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Studies have shown that Dong Quai is best used when combined with other herbs. It is an ideal remedy for people suffering from Yin deficiency, a condition that usually develops in menopause (frequency and intensity of hot flushes).
Dr. Nelya de Brun, AP, DAOM
Classical Oriental Medicine, LLC
3459 Woolbright Rd
Boynton Beach, FL 33436